An open letter to Ken Livingstone

by Jonathan Roberts

Dear Ken,

I write as a Labour party and trade union member.  I have spent many evenings in dusty, cold community centres with left of centre colleagues arguing over the minutes of last month’s branch meetings.  I have walked more miles than I care to remember on the Labour doorstep.  I have stuffed so many envelopes that I feel as though I’ve single-handedly kept my postman in employment.

I do it because I believe Labour values can help people.  But I am not, now, doing any of these things for you.

Your supporters will say I’m disloyal to the Labour Party, but don’t seem to mind you campaigning against our candidate in Tower Hamlets.

Your supporters cheered you when you called tax avoiders “rich bastards”, but they don’t seem to mind the £50,000 you have allegedly avoided yourself.

Your supporters criticise Boris Johnson as a “part time Mayor” for churning out a weekly article for the Telegraph, but they don’t seem to mind that you were an MP and a writer for the Independent during substantial parts of your own Mayoral tenure.

Your supporters sing about how you speak the truth, but don’t seem to mind how independent fact-checking organisations regularly describe your claims as “fiction”.

Your supporters were delighted when you announced you would reintroduce the EMA for London, giving hope to thousands of kids, but they don’t seem to mind that the Mayor has no power to reintroduce EMA at all.  Nor do they seem to mind you making a promise you knew full well you would be unlikely to deliver on.

But do you know what Ken?  I mind.  I do.  Your relentless cynicism and negativity is matched only by your hypocrisy.  And I mind all three.

It bothers me that people think you are the last bastion of Labourness.  It bothers me that you think you are the last bastion of Labourness.  It bothers me that because I am a proud member of this party, I am expected to give up countless hours of my life to fight through the rain and cold to campaign for a man who has made so many anti-west comments that Iranian state television gave him his own TV show.

Some in our society are untouchable as a result of their past contributions.  I willingly forgive Sir Paul McCartney’s dismal modern-day efforts because in his day he was a genius.  Some afford you that same forgiveness because of your hugely positive past contributions in fighting fascism and homophobia.  But you are not untouchable Ken.  You are a politician seeking election, and the rules still apply to you.

London is one of the greatest cities in the world.  And maybe I’m still too young and optimistic, or maybe I’ve just watched too much West Wing, but I want to be inspired.  I want to believe.  I want to walk into that voting booth and know “this guy is the real deal”.   I don’t feel that with you.  On May 3rd I will get on a tube and go to the office.  I’ll put in a decent day’s work and then go home in the evening.  Whatever I do, I won’t be stopping off to vote.  I won’t support any other candidate because they do not match my values.  But I won’t be supporting you because yours don’t match them either.   I love Labour, but more importantly I love London and my country.  I do not think you are good for either.

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Roberts

Jonathan Roberts was Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Thirsk and Malton at the last election

Tags: , ,

105 Responses to “An open letter to Ken Livingstone”

  1. K.R.Lohse says:

    Dear Mr Roberts. Young people like you, who still have a moral base, are the hope of the Labour Party. ATM, your main opponents are those who believe, as some of the commentators above seem to, that anything that supports the Cause must by that standard be upright and moral. I am a life-long Conservative, and recognise that more people like you would make Labour electable again. Notwithstanding that, I wish you all the best in your future political career.

  2. Michael says:

    As a blue collar voter in Surrey I look at London with interest as it is my my local and favourite City. Ken Livingstone has betrayed working class people throughout his political career. That is what Socialists have done to those of us from ordinary backgrounds. Housing – stick ’em in tower blocks; education – send ’em to lousy schools ; jobs – encourage overseas outsourcing/ hand our manufacturing sector to China

    To be a supposed man of the people yet to indulge in (legal) tax avoidance whilst criticising others is obscene. To castigate the Rothermere Empire whilst having taken its shilling as the Evening Standard restaurant critic ( when Rothermere owned it) is obscene; to ally with religious extremists who would stone gays and subjugate women is obscene.

    I am no fan of Boris who is just a showman – either. Londoners as usual face a choice of not voting for any Mayoral candidate or voting for the least shallow/least unpleasant one.

  3. David says:

    Wonderful. I don’t vote Labour and probably wouldn’t but articles like this at least mean it retains my respect…unlike Ken.

  4. Jingouk says:

    You sound like a decent Labour voter, Mr Roberts.

  5. Iain says:

    Jamie as usual its one rule for Ken – one for everyone else.

  6. Brummytaff says:

    I left London to live in the Midlands in 1998, But was there when the first mayorl contest was starting,I also went to college with ken livingstone in 1972 when he was just starting his political career as a councillor in Lambeth, 40 years ago he was a singular man, had his won views, and was not ever a team player, Some of his stances were unpopular but he has held firm with them. His behaviour over the last few years where he has supported gay equality whilst lauding homophobic islamists have been another example of looking both ways at once for political advantage.

    I have been a labour party member for over 40 years, and sometimes I have had to vote for labour candidates with a peg on my nose, But Ken has always been for number one, he is not a team player, and I am glad I dont have the moral dilemna of suppporting him…..becauase it would be a struggle

  7. Mark says:

    The tragedy of Ken’s candidacy is that he has kept Oona King off the ballot. She would have been a real asset to Labour nationally.

    It is a running sore that Labour does not have effective women candidates (I use “effective” to rule out the Party’s women leaders in Scotland) – some 33 years after that bastion of progressive thinking, the Tory Party, managed to get a woman elected as Prime Minister.

  8. Jimmy says:

    The party needs to show loyalty to Ken just as Ken has to us. For this reason I urge all our supporters to give him their second preference vote.

  9. Rh- says:

    respect dude for saying what we are thinking but have dared not say for fear we will accused of giving succour to an enemy.
    Perhaps its time that the tribal nature of politics in this country be discarded. Simply lauding ‘labour’ ideas/personalities as genius because they are labour and anyone else’s as ‘evil’ and as “nazi’s” must have had its day. The country is ripped with out of control debt, population pressure and struggling businesses … theres no room for self obsessed, dodgy, hypocritical self publicists like ken livingstone preaching one thing then doing the exact opposite to further himself, his mates and his bank account!

  10. william says:

    Ditching Ken Livingstone would be better than a Clause 4 moment,in the eyes of the people that count,the ELECTORATE.

  11. H.A. says:

    Wow, what a brilliant article. Mr Roberts is a brave individual and has won my respect and admiration. It’s refreshing to see such a display of moral clarity. Ken Livingstone is a disgusting hypocrite, it’s a shame he gets to share a platform with the Labour Party.

    In fact, I was a disaffected centrist before I read this letter – I just joined the Labour Party.

  12. LJB says:

    Ken’s company, Silveta Limited, has until 31 March 2012 to submit it’s accounts for it’s last tax year. I bet most of that avoided sum won’t be on the balance sheet..

  13. Anon E Mouse says:

    As an ex-Labour voter I can only wish this fella all the best in politics.

    This article seems to have created an immediate reaction and if you are ever selected to represent my constituency in South Wales I’d vote for you.

    Politics needs more people who just say it the way it is regardless of the party they represent.

    I have as much time for Tony Benn and Dan Hannan because although I may fundamentally disagree with either of them they are genuine and put forward their views for debate without smearing and being rude.

    Labour needs more Charles Clarke’s and less Dennis McShane’s and the sooner the party realises that then the sooner this country can get a credible opposition in place.

    A genuinely refreshing article.

    Well done Labour Uncut for printing it….

  14. KRC says:

    Wonderful article, thank you. A shame you are not on the Ballot.

  15. Martyn Winters says:

    Wow, the bleating of a failed politico has really brought out the astroturfers, hasn’t it? In the Labour Party I love, we discuss things amongst ourselves, reach a majority verdict and accept collective responsibility. What we don’t do is go running to the press with pathetic, whiny drivel like this. It’s certainly interesting that this polemic has received the fulsome support of a mixed bag of admitted Tories and questionable characters, all of whom seem to have an anti-Ken and therefore in the London context an anti-Labour agenda. I strongly advise Mr Roberts to crawl back under his stone.

  16. ANO says:

    So, there you have it: a long paqst time sell by date hypocrite who drapes himself in the Labour Party cloak but brings nothing but shame and ridicule.

    I have long wondered how it was that this creature is allowed to purport to represent me, what I believe in and the Labour Party but everything he says and does grates and grates very badly.

    Now I know it is not just me.

    TBH, much as I would hate myself, I would rather see Boris as Mayor of London than Ken. He now revolts me.

    Not in my name matey, not in mine

  17. Amongst many other things, it wasn’t Ken who tried to have the enquiry into the hacking of phones shut down, it was Boris’s henchmen who tried to pressure the Met to back off. It also wasn’t Ken who had the TfL press department act as a private PR company campaigning on his behalf for the last four years. Of the several thousand press releases they have made since Boris took office, at least 80% have promoted Boris in one way or another. It also wasn’t Ken who diverted funds into schemes that are solely designed to make him look good with no real benefit to London or Londoners. That was Boris too. It wasn’t Ken who made massive increases in TfL fares? It wasn’t Ken who cut over a thousand police jobs in London either, that was Boris. Neither was it Ken who diluted the air pollution rules that protect the people of London from ever increasing danger. That too was Boris. Neither was it Ken who increased the charges on the Dartford tunnel by 66% in one year. Guess who it was.

    And this is why ANO would rather Boris than Ken. Glad we know where you stand “matey”.

  18. Clr Ralph Baldwin says:

    Dear Jonathon Roberts,

    Totally understand where you are coming from. I hope you will remain in the Labour Party as it needs people like you more than many people who are elected and think they are important. Politicians are just beginning to learn they can no longer take the public and Members for granted, it’s a slow lesson in the learning.

    Sadly the Big Money associated with the City has turned far too many heads in the Labour Party and affected the outcome of far too many selections. Until a truly Labour Party appears on the scene we have to wait. By supporting a morally bankrupt body with a rotton head the pain will endure and carry on for a longer period until change occurs.

    Historically the Tories envied Labours ability to change, but it was not real change it was a singular move towards the City and it was a one-way trip. The Leadership have claimed to be a New Generation without producing one beyond gestures. Rhetoric is the currency in the Party with no attachment to reality, to delivery or to facts and blatant cynical deceptions such as ID cards and the ones you have mentioned show an undercurrent of conceit and contempt again directed at the very people the Candidates are hoping will elect them, the members who loyally work hard and the public who will vote.

    You are not alone and the more people who take a stand and demand fairness, vision and democracy the pressure there will be for Labour to once again become a radical intellect challenger of the status quo and not a slave to Corporate vested interests both directly and indirectly….otherwise its a Conservative victory whoever wins the election.

  19. Stephen G. says:

    Suberbly reasoned, clear-sighted and hugely perceptive, well done Mr Roberts! Clearly you are a leader in the making. The true heir to Tony Blair has been found!

  20. GSilver says:

    “… the bleating of a failed politico ”
    “…pathetic, whiny drivel”
    “…a mixed bag of admitted Tories and questionable characters”
    “…crawl back under his stone.”

    wow … could Martyn Winters have been more offensive? sorry “matey” but to be honest all you have done in your rants above is confirm just what tribal politics is – morally bankrupt, an evolutionary dead end and in the case of ken … a busted flush.

  21. neonoctafish says:

    Jonathan Roberts, you have punctured my deep cynicism. If the Labour Party can find itself more candidates & representatives ready to speak truth to power, no matter how unpopular it’s on the way to reconnection with a people grown sick of the greasy pole, insincere disaster that it is most of our current political class. Good luck to you.

  22. Les Abbey says:

    I would be even more impressed by the response if there wasn’t that sneaky feeling that it was mainly by those who are either particularly friendly to, supporters of, or organized by a foreign government that Livingstone has upset, but that’s not counting those that are just Boris supporters anyway. You should be very proud of yourself Jonathan Roberts.

  23. Anon E Mouse says:

    Martyn Winters

    “In the Labour Party I love, we discuss things amongst ourselves, reach a majority verdict and accept collective responsibility.”

    If that was true then why did you dump Tony Blair and why wasn’t Miliband elected by either the PLP or the ordinary party members?

    Why didn’t Gordon Brown face a leadership contest as well?

    The Labour Party in your description hasn’t existed for years I’m afraid. If it had the likes of Ken Livingston, the terrorists friend, wouldn’t be representing it….

  24. Mike Brady says:

    Just when I thought the grassroots of the Labour party has a moment of brilliant clarity with this article, the usual vile individuals that damage the party rears it’s ugly head in the form of Martyn Winters.

  25. Dan says:

    As a London labour party member, of over 25 years, I shall vote for my local labour assembly members. I shall abstain on the mayoral ballot. Livingstone’s support for the independent, non labour candidate in tower hamlets, and now these tax dodging allegations, mean I really cannot support the man. Many of my fellow labour members feel the same.

  26. baldguvnor says:

    I am increasingly of the view that those of the younger generation in all parties have a far more developed sense of decency, of what is right, than the old guards. This piece again shows that. Those like the author (in any party) who get invloved “to do what is right, and to make a difference” deserve support and praise. Politicians can argue on policies, but having a firm sense of right and wrong is the most important attribute of anyone who seeks influence and power. The rather patehtic attempts to smear the author from the likes of Les Abbey will only reinforce Mr Roberts in the years to come. Good on you.

  27. andy b says:

    Do as I say not as I do has been the call of the left for as long as I can remember,the motives and direction of livingstone are like the commissars of the now gratefully extinct soviet satellite countries,whilst the ruling classes (livingstone included)play in the sunlight with our wealth and taxes we the wealth producers toil in the dark!metropolis anyone?

  28. RufusD says:

    Well said GSilver. I left Labour after the march to war in Iraq and comments like Martyn Winters’ prove it was a wise decision.

  29. RGL says:

    I, personally, wandered in the political wilderness for ages before half-heartedly going Tory (Labour lost my vote with a combination of the Iraq war and a massive clampdown on civil liberties). I have to say I am quite a fan of Boris, and I like what he has done with London.

    But I would have voted for Oona King if she had been allowed to run. The fact that Labour chose Ken, a de-caf Galloway who is still resting on his 1980s laurels, over a positive and progressive candidate who combined idealism and pragmatism with a healthy dollop of common sense, is ludicrous.

  30. Stuart says:

    Aside from the political allegations levelled against Livingstone, which I won’t touch on because others already have from both sides, do people really think that Oona King was a credible candidate? She is the personification of why you should be nice to people on your way up because you may need them when you are on way down. The reason she is down is because, without beating about the bush, she isutterly useless.

  31. G Bisset says:

    and what Ken was all that stuff about a BROOMSTICK a year or two ago?

  32. Scott Tracy says:

    @Les Abbey, can you be a little more precise about who you were talking about at 1.36am when you referred to those “who are either particularly friendly to, supporters of, or organized by a foreign government that Livingstone has upset”?

    You clearly have a view as to the source of this response. Why don’t you spell it out so we all know what you’re talking about. After all, a bright lad like you wouldn’t be making such a point if you weren’t sure of your facts, would you?

  33. Les Abbey says:

    @Scott Tracy.

    Thank you, it’s a long time since I was last referred to a lad. I just wish that was so.

    Of course if I were sure of my facts I wouldn’t have to use the phrase if there wasn’t that sneaky feeling, would I?

    Now I’m sure you don’t really need me to spell it out, but for any who maybe unsure, Livingstone has done much to upset those that are friends of Israel. I’m also sure he deserves some of their ire by cosying up to some pretty unsavoury characters in the Muslim community. What I am unsure of is how closely this grouping is attached to the far right of Labour and the Blairites. We know the close relationship between the present right wing Israeli government and the neo-cons in the US, but just how much influence Netanyahu has with the Blairites I have no way of knowing. Still a Livingstone victory wouldn’t look very appealing to him I’m sure.

    Does that help Scott, or will you throw the antisemitic red card at me?

  34. starfish says:

    I do find it interesting that despite Ken being the architect of his own misfortune it is apparently the actions of ‘dark forces’ that are actually doing the destruction

  35. BenM says:

    Hopelessly deluded, one-eyed attack which totally fails as soon as you ask:

    So, er, is Boris any better? (of course not).

  36. andrew says:

    I am a Tory, but if there were more (any) people like you leading Labour I would reconsider. Ditch Ken and Balls and publicly tag them for their for naked self-interest and dishonesty and your new Clause 4 moment will have arrived with bells on. To have a man like Balls in the public eye, an Oxbridge millionaire who is hanging his entire future on a national double-dip recession solely to ‘prove his point’, would once have been regarded as treasonable. All the best in the future.

  37. Howard says:

    Amazing I went through a variety of different opinions when I read this, as a none politico who just happened to follow the link from another site.

    Bit of background, I used to be a Labour supporter who lost the way primarily due me perceiving ALL politicians as a$$holes of the highest self serving order – theory being its expected of Tories but Labour should represent the working people and people like KL clearly only represent themselves, so at least the Tories do what is assumed of them so that in a perverse way is honesty.

    Then I read this letter by Jonathan Roberts and I was converted back to Labour primarily due to the refreshing honesty that harks back to a bygone era. I was all fired up so to speak.

    Then I read the comments by Martyn Winters and I’m back to where I was when I started reading this post.

    What an utter waste of 15 minutes.

  38. Mike Homfray says:

    I trust that you think that you should be expelled from the party, Jonathan, for not supporting Ken, as you accused him of the same thing in the Tower Hamlets mayoral election?

    These fairweather friends…..

  39. Scott Tracy says:

    @Les Abbey
    I think it deserves at least an antisemitism free kick card for seeing imaginary Jewish conspiracies. I would have given you a yellow had you not been so polite about it 🙂

    Livingstone is simply so offensive that those who criticise him are probably from every community and just about every position on the political spectrum.
    The Jewish lobby in the UK is nothing like as rich and influential in the UK as it is in the USA, nor does it have much in the way of voting power, except in a small number of concentrated areas. Furthermore we don’t really have much in the way of a far-right Christian group here which in the USA is a big supporter of Israel.

    Livingstone know this and is happy to knock the Jews and Israel as it chimes well with the much bigger and more powerful London Muslim voting block.

  40. Keith says:

    But Ken is not the only senior Labour person involved in this type of behaviour. For example, Blair earns £12 million last year, yet only pays £360,000 in tax, less than 5%, whilst the rest of us pay 20 or 40% on a tiny fraction of that.

    Gordon Brown also earned £1.4 million last year, he says that it is for charity, yet £127,000 of this amount went to charity – the rest is (supposedly) expenses? And by the way, he is supposed to be an MP – not that anyone would think that given his appalling attendance. He still draws his £65,000 salary courtesy of the taxpayer.
    David Milliband is also earning large amounts, and like the others already mentioned uses a company to pay only corporation tax.

    Indulging in tax avoidance schemes is not the sort of conduct to expect from former Labour PMs – no wonder the public are so disillusioned with Labour. The party needs to show that it cares about the people that it purports to care about and not just themselves.

  41. Mario Dunn says:

    And of course the comment that Tony Blair should be tried as a war criminal (for me the last straw).

  42. Mike Mason says:

    Ken stood against Labour (Mayor), campaigned against Labour (Tower Hamlets), spoke against Labour (most of the Blair years).

    Remind me again why he’s our candidate?

  43. son of mulder says:

    I used to think that it was a battle between left and right. As I’ve got older I’ve realised it’s a battle between honest and decent people and scroungers, avoiders and exploiters of varying degree. Whether it is Tory tax avoiders, Labour tax avoiders, fine sounding champions like Blair who turn out to be greedy, money grubbers or Cameron, who’s incompetence is eclipsed only by Clegg, Milliband and Johnson, I also shall be avoiding the ballot box. Johnson will win. Not because I want him to but until the Labour Party genuinely shows caring for real, exploited ordinary folk and its senior figures behave in a demonstrably fair and unselfish way instead of pandering to power groups, whether bankers, hedge fund operators or union bullies, The labour party can go to hell with its Tory and Liberal Democrat buddies.

  44. Simon Rockman says:

    Whatever your views it’s wrong not to vote. Spoil your paper and show that you don’t support any candidate. That way you are counted and not seen as apathetic.

  45. paul barker says:

    Theres a lack of self-knowledge here. You all knew perfectly well that if you didnt pick cuddly Ken he would have stood anyway, you gave in to balackmail & now must live with it.
    For those who intend to campaign for labour but not Ken, how exactly ? Are you going to go through leaflets cutting out any bits that refer to Ken ? What will you say on the doorstep if asked about Ken ?

  46. figurewizard says:

    This article is courageous and principled.

  47. Sally Burr says:

    Instead of just complaining about him why shouldn’t everybody who has posted here take the chance to let Ken Livingstone himself know what their feelings are? I have created a petition for Ken Livingstone to pay his tax back. Here’s the link:

    And while you’re at it, why not use the Tell Ken feature on his campaign website to ask a simple question politely, like “When are you going to pay your tax, Ken?” Public opinion has shamed Stephen Hester into giving his bonus back, and why shouldn’t it work on Ken?

  48. Hal says:

    The tax avoidance allegation is an outrageous slander with no basis in fact. There is no evidence for it and Ken has denied it categorically.

    He has paid the normal rate of income tax on all money paid to him, as now reported in the more responsible sections of the media.

    Time for everyone to apologise, starting with Jonathan Roberts. Or has he no morals?

  49. Howard says:


    I believe it is the hypocrisy rather than the actual deed that is at the centre of the debate !

  50. ChrisM says:

    Jesus, is this the new activism? Someone writing an article to tell us why they won’t be voting? And does so by wring up Standard and Gilligan rubbish.

    Making yourself a limited company is tax dodging, is it? Do you think that when he inveighed against tax dodgers he might have meant something other than people who do what he does? ie every other self-employed person?

    And the Islamic extemism thing is nonsense. He likes Lutfur Rahman who probably got some votes off homophobes. Does that work with the right too? You don’t think I could tie Boris Johnson to some neo-con thug like that? Actually, I can give you Boris himself praising an actual racist:

    ” A truly brave John Reid would now publicly grovel to Ray Honeyford, the Bradford head who called for teaching in English and who was vilified and persecuted by the Left.”

    Does that not make you feel like voting?

Leave a Reply